Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 411, April 1, 2007

"It's the business of mass media to distract Americans
from everything that's actually important."


How Many Guns Do You Need?
by Ron Beatty

Credit The Libertarian Enterprise

I suppose that we've all seen articles from both sides of the issue, from both die-hard RKBA supporters and from the most fervent of the sheeple, bleating that guns are evil. I have to admit that I tend to lean far toward the RKBA side of the issue, but I thought I'd just throw my two cents into the debate.

How many guns do you need? Well, that's a very personal question, don't you think? And there is no definitive answer to it, either. I live out in the boonies. My needs are far different than those of someone who lives in a big city or those of someone who lives in a town at all, for that matter.

I guess that I'm just going to put down what I consider to be a minimum list of guns that most people should consider for personal use, and the uses they can be put to. Given the choice and the budget, I'd select many more, one for each niche or perceived need.

Basic gun needs for the modern man

Basically, your firearms needs fall into two very broad categories; defense/survival and work/recreation. There is a reason I split it up this way. I split it up since what we may pick as a personal preference is not always what some bureaucratic organization may decide is ideal for its corporate needs. In the following lists, please remember that if I mention a specific type or model of firearm, that is only my personal preference, and that you should not take it as gospel. Your needs or situation might be very different.

Defense/survival guns

This week, we're going to concentrate on defense, primarily the handgun.

For the purposes of this article, I'm going to make some basic assumptions. First, that you are in reasonably good health, with somewhat normal hand strength. If you are elderly, or have arthritis, this may not apply to you. The second basic assumption is that you live in an area where you cannot be openly carrying a rifle or shotgun with you at all times. I think I'm safe in that one, don't you? Under these conditions, I'm going to say that your primary defense gun should be a big-bore semi-auto of at least .40 caliber. It should have a balance of several features. First and foremost, it should be reliable! If you pull the trigger and it doesn't go bang when you need it to, you're up that well known creek. Almost as important is convenience. If the gun is too heavy or too large, you won't have it with you when you need it. Right behind that is accuracy. If you can't hit a man sized target at ranges from nose to nose out to about 7 yards, that is not the gun for you! And yes, I know that danger can strike from ranges greater than 7 yards, but we're talking basics here, including surviving the legal action sure to take place afterwards if you're forced to use your weapon in self-defense. The final major consideration is controllability. I suppose I should have listed this with the convenience feature, but the two aren't always compatible. The gun has to be controllable in rapid fire, By You! This is a factor of grip size and shape, hand and arm strength, weight, ammo selection and skill. One other consideration is concealability. This may or may not be important to you, but if it is, don't forget to factor this into your choice.

Taking all of this into consideration, I'm going to say that my personal preference for a primary defense handgun is a 1911 pattern in .45 ACP, probably of Commander length and size. Again, this is my personal preference, chosen from years of personal experience. There are many others just as good, or perhaps even better for you. By the way, I'm not putting down the myriad of other makes and models, this is just my personal preference. In fact, I may probably have to switch my personal carry gun soon, due to health factors. If I do, I'll probably go to a Springfield XD40 or 45, or possibly the Steyr M-1 in .40.

Keep in mind: I'm a big man, over 6', with huge hands. What I choose to use for myself may not be applicable to you. In fact, I recently advised my mother to buy a .38/.357 revolver as a defense gun. She's 67, small, and isn't really into putting in the huge amounts of practice needed to master my personal choices. Under these circumstances, the revolver is a much better choice for her. I have to badger her to get her to practice. She's just not a 'gun person,' but does want to be able to protect herself.

Where I live, out in the country, we have to worry about animals, both two and four legged ones. The next category of defense guns is the long gun, both the shotgun and the rifle. In shotguns, I prefer the 12 ga. pump shotgun by almost any major manufacturer. My first choice for a defense only shotgun would be a Mossberg Model 590, with ghost ring sights, followed closely by either a Mossberg 500 or Remington 870. If you can only afford one gun, go with the Mossberg 500 combo package. This offers a good balance of versatility and value. Almost as important as the gun is the ammo you choose. Most self-described experts will tell you to go with buckshot for your shotgun. I won't, for one simple reason. If you have a family, or live in a modern cracker box tract house, buckshot is way too penetrating for interior use. My shotgun is loaded with #6 bird shot, with an ammo sling on the stock containing both 00 buckshot and slugs. At close range, the #6 bird shot is capable of taking down an unarmored intruder, without being so powerful as to go through walls and kill your kids or neighbors. Obviously, your needs and priorities may vary. Whichever ammo you choose, test it out, make sure it fits your needs, and not some theoretical model that may, or may not, apply to you. Again, these are my choices, which fit my needs. Back to my mother, I told her to get a 20 ga. pump. It fits her needs better than what I would choose for myself would.

Now for rifles, and I really expect to get some flack from this one. Too much of this category depends not only on your needs, but also your budget and skill level. If, like many of us, you can only afford one rifle to take care of most of your needs, I'm going to recommend one that will fit most people. That one rifle is the .30-06 bolt action rifle, by any one of the major manufacturers. My personal favorite is the Savage Model 110. A good basic or entry level rifle, it will serve most of your needs for a general purpose rifle for many years, without breaking the bank.

If your budget is more expansive than mine, you might consider any one of the so-called 'battle rifles,' if you feel the need. If you go this route, and live in the country, select one in 7.62/.308 or .30-06.. In the city, consider the .223/5.56. In my personal opinion, the .308 is far more useful and versatile than the .223, but it's your choice, and your life.

Now we come to the single most important issue in selecting a defense weapon. This issue is training. No matter what weapon you choose, whether it be a top of the line Kimber or Wilson .45, or some cheap revolver from a pawn shop, learn how to use it safely, effectively and competently. Learn the manual of arms for your weapon(s). Take it to the range and practice with it on a regular basis. Learn which ammo is best for your weapon, your needs, and your comfort level with that weapon.

Above all, as I've said many times before, do the research. Find out for yourself. You can ask friends, read articles, BS in gun shops, but you have to make the final decisions, decisions which fit your life and lifestyle. What I've lined out here is based on my personal experiences, over 45 years of owning and using guns, both civilian and wearing a badge. It is very general and is not meant to be all-inclusive. If you want a personal evaluation, you will have to be willing to go to an expert and be prepared to pay, and pay well, for his expert opinion on your needs and possible choices. Even if you do that, however, you still need to make the final decision. It's up to you. Choose well.

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